Butternut and Bacon Bisque

My aunt and I were on a road trip together last fall (which is its own whole story) and one of the most memorable meals we had been a delightful lunch at a cafe on lake Winnipesaukee. We had just gone wild at the Keepsake Quilting store in Connecticut and were looking for a lunch of champions. We almost missed it, a little stand alone house converted to a cafe that just looked appealing. In fact I think we turned around to go back to it.  I would tell you the name of it if I could remember. (see photo below)

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I DO remember we split a lobster roll, the best I’d ever had, and each had a bowl of butternut bisque, wherein we both licked the bowl clean, looking over at the others bowls to see if maybe she missed a bit. Continue reading “Butternut and Bacon Bisque”

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A Pot of Chicken Stew

Here is a recipe for a chicken soupy/stewish dish that everyone here raved about and licked clean. The way they went on, I was almost offended. Really? That good? I am suspicious when they rave so much. What exactly does that say about the rest of my cooking? “Gosh, look guys, it TASTES GOOD!” “Wow, really? Let me try!”

I hadn’t really planned this meal so much. But my hubby was complaining that he couldn’t get warm. (Now don’t laugh. I know we live in SoCal and our cold may not be your idea of cold. We start layering it on when it reaches a low of 65 out. And it was closer to 40 out there-Arctic!) I had planned on using the rotisserie or just baking the chicken in the oven with some bbq sauce on it. Easy speasy.

But in fact, instead of starting dinner I had lain down on the sofa to take a power nap. (you know, a “just give me 10 minutes to shut my eyes” nap.) When I woke up this recipe was fully formed in my head. So thank you to the powers that be for giving me this one. (Images from the movie “Always” come to mind). Something comforting, warm, filling. Continue reading “A Pot of Chicken Stew”

Soup Essentials, The Makings of a Great Broth

Hello my sweeties!

I would like to share with you some soup basics. Soup essentials.

It started when I went to make a pot of turkey soup for dinner. It was already 3:30 in the afternoon. (Well it certainly wasn’t in the morning!) While I could have put together a short cut soup with chicken broth, vegetables, tomatoes and diced turkey breast I had roasted the other day, once I got going, I kind of got carried away.

I quickly realized that I was not in fact making soup for dinner but was starting broth for tomorrow nights soup-for-dinner.

Lets set aside short cut soup for the moment. It can be wonderful. But lets just set it aside.

Soup has at least 2 components. The broth and everything else.

A good broth can turn soup from “meh” to “yummy”  to “outrageous!”

So lets look at broth basics first. We will use my turkey soup as an example.

I had purchased some turkey wings on-the-cheap at Sprouts just for this purpose. I also had some celery that was past its prime, so I bought new and set aside these old inner stalks for the soup. Grabbed an onion and rough chopped it and the celery.

Into a large pot I drizzled a bit of oil and heated it up. I chopped up the wings into its 3 pieces and browned them, good and crispy, a few at a time. But this could have been beef bones, such as knuckle bones. Or chicken. Or ?? Something with bones is best in that you are getting the minerals out of them that are oh-so good for you.

Once browned, I pulled the wings out and then added a smack of butter, the celery and onions. Oh look, some bacon ends! I added a handful of those too. Once they were browned I rummaged through the seasonings. How about  some Bouquet Garni? Yep and some 21 Season Salute from Trader Joes. I added some rosemary and thyme just for kicks. And a clove or two of garlic.

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Taking the meat out of the stock to shred.

I added a splash of Rose wine I found open in the fridge. Had it been beef soup I would have added red wine. Do you have to add wine? No, of course not. You just add what suits your fancy. But the more flavor components you add, the deeper the flavor in your broth.

Veggies done, meat browned. Now I just put them all together in the pot, fill it up with water and add plenty of salt. A generous tablespoon in my case as well as a few grinds of pepper. Oh, and a splash of vinegar. That  and the wine help pull the minerals out of the bones. Put a lid on it. You can have it on full or tilt it just a bit to let out a little bit of steam. This will condense the broth faster, but keep an eye. Keep the heat on very low.

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This cooked down quite a bit. I will add a box of broth to it to bulk it up.

Check on it once in a while. You will probably need to skim off grey foamy scum from the top of the soup. It looks about as good as it sounds.  Just spoon it out, put it into a bowl and throw it away, in the trash.

You could even pour in extra broth you might have open in your fridge. Beef or chicken or vegetable. Soup is a good way to clean out the fridge.

I want this to simmer and simmer and simmer. After a few hours I will take out the turkey to strip off the meat and put the bones back. If I want to, I could cook the bones and vegetables all day or all night on a very low heat or in a crock pot. Keep in mind, all these vegetables and so on are going to be strained out, You are just leaving behind flavor, minerals, vitamins.

It would be the same with beef bones. After a few hours, strip off the meat. Save it for the soup or feed it to the pets. Chicken does not need as much simmering before it is ready to strip off the bones. 1 hour is plenty of time. Strip off the meat and save it for soup, cats, dogs, chicken salad…

CAUTION: do not feed the cooked bones to your pets. Cooked bones can splinter in their little throats and cut them or damage their intestinal tract. So-don’t!

Once you are content with the broth, (taste it), you just strain it into another large pot through a colander or sieve, throw away the bones and vegetables and there is your broth! If you are not making soup right away you can let it cool, cover and store in the fridge. The next day or two, you can take it out and there should be a layer of fat on top. Skim it off or keep it on, suit yourself. This turkey broth did not have much fat so I just kept it in.

Now you have your stock. Or broth, whatever you want to call it.

Part 2 Time for soup!

Heat up the broth up when you are ready to make soup. I am adding diced turkey to mine. Do not be afraid if the stock has coagulated or congealed into a big ball of jello-y-ness. This is a good thing! It means the gelatin and collagen has been pulled from the bones and into the stock. This is what makes it special and homemade!

Here it is right out of the fridge. It will melt down into broth nirvana!
Here it is right out of the fridge. In all its gelatinous goodness. It will melt down into broth nirvana!

For the soup I will saute some leeks in the large pot in a bit of oil. Perhaps some thinly sliced carrots and some green beans.  I plan to add a can of diced tomatoes or some diced from the garden. (which I actually forgot to do when all was said and done.) Then I will add the meat, which in this case will be turkey and chicken sausages cut into little circles. Perhaps if I see any other leftover meat in the fridge…

I will add some shredded up cabbage and kale. More seasoning and the broth. Perhaps I will dice up some red potato or sweet potato or butternut squash. Or maybe I have some leftover rice to throw into the pot. Or a can of beans.

Oh and lets not forget the Turmeric. Good-for-you Turmeric. Which makes the whole thing gold tinted. Nothing stains quite like turmeric, so be careful.

I will let it simmer for just a little bit and it will be done. All the work was in the broth, now this is the easy part. 30 minutes and you are ready to serve. You can put some chopped herbs in each bowl as serving to add a bit of freshness. Chives perhaps or cilantro or basil. Perhaps a last minute splash of lemon or wine vinegar to the soup before serving.

Another tip. Some people add gelatin, plain unflavored gelatin to their soups and stews. It add minerals as well. Or if you have some beef marrow bones, usually bought as soup bones, which I like to buy for the dog. But this time, you can put it into the soup and let it cook away.

Perhaps you want a creamy soup? Add a can of coconut milk 10 minutes before its done. Or add some cream. You could add some lemon grass and fish sauce for an exotic touch.

While I am making my broth on the stove top, you could use the oven or your slow cooker.

The point is, that it is hard to go wrong with making soup. A good broth of your own making, vegetables of your choosing, meats and/or seafood and seasonings.

Have fun!

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Paleo Challenge Day #2/Thai Coconut Soup

By the way, this is my 400th post! 400 rambling stories and recipes, mostly posted so I can find them later and so when I am “over the great divide” my family will have recipes and pictures to look back on.I hope, my dear ones and friends, that you have enjoyed them. Love L.

I could have sworn I had shared the Thai coconut soup recipe with you! Mainly so I could find it later instead of rummaging through all my printouts, online recipes and cookbooks. I would have bet money! But I guess I would have lost because it is not here. I found it on our Kindle in the “Against All Grains” book. I had such good luck with it last time that I am giving it another go tonight, on day 2 of my paleo challenge.

Now can you honestly tell me that does not look yummy!? For the boys, I put a large scoop of rice in the bottom of the bowl before pouring in the soup.
Now can you honestly tell me that does not look yummy!? For the boys, I put a large scoop of rice in the bottom of the bowl before pouring in the soup.

So for day 2 we started out with fruit, sausage, bacon and an egg scramble.

I sauteed some zucchini and shallots first, then scrambled up some of our girls eggs. Topped it with my moms garden tomatoes!
I sauteed some zucchini and shallots first, then scrambled up some of our girls eggs. Topped it with my moms garden tomatoes!

I made the ‘boys’ some multi grain blueberry pancakes and didn’t eat 1 bite! Go me! (Last time I made some, I scarfed one down when no one was looking. Bad me.)

As soon as I took this picture I ate a bite of the egg, snagged one of the sausages and a slice of cantaloupe.I was too lazy to make my own plate full. It’s more fun to steal his. Just nibble-nibble-nibble. Honestly, how does he put  up with it. I cant think of the last time I poured myself a glass of ice water. I just slurp on his, since he is never without. Sometimes he beats me to the punch by bringing me my own glass of water. I try drinking a sip out of younger sons cups sometimes but he acts very affronted. His look basically said to ‘get your own’.

Then for lunch we nibbled some more on Cortinas deli meats as a reward for all our good healthy shopping. Boars Head ham, mortadella, salami, soppressata, and more. Not a lot of each, but enough to round out a meal of melon salad and have some throughout the week.

Now for dinner.

Here is a recipe modified from “Against All Grain” for Thai coconut chicken soup. we all enjoyed this soup last time I made it. It reminds us of the soup we all share at our favorite Thai place and its really not hard to make. You just dump everything in the pot, bit by bit. Sometimes I use chicken sausages (the bacon n pineapple ones, yum!) with the chicken. This time it is shrimp.Whatever floats your Thai boat. (I was going to say junk, since that is a Chinese boat, but thought some might get the wrong idea.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 8 whole thai birds eye chilies (which I never heard of. I use dried chilis I have on hand and pick them out later.)
  • 2 cans (14 oz) full fat coconut milk. (This time around it is low fat from Trader Joes. Sorry, its all they had!)
  • 1 full box of chicken broth
  • a 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass, sliced into about 3″ pieces and smashed with the butt of the knife.
  • the recipe calls for 8 kaffir lime leaves but since I never heard of them, I skipped it.
  • 4 Tbsp. of fish sauce.
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of all fat and thinly sliced
  • I either add a couple of sliced bacon chicken sausages or, like today, added some cooked shrimp.
  • 1 cup slices mushrooms. (sometimes I use button, this time I am re-hydrating Chanterells).
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 of a lime juiced
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • optional spice: turmeric (makes it yellow, health benefits), any Indian spices that suit your fancy, fresh basil, etc.
  • optional: rice stick noodles
  • fresh chopped cilantro and scallions for garnish.

Method

In a large soup pot, heat the coconut oil to melt. Add the chilies and stir for 1-2 minutes. You can leave them in at this point or pick them out. I picked them out this time and will put one on top of hubbys bowl for decor. This batch was not as hot as before, which made some of us happy.

Pour in the coconut milk and broth, bringing to a boil.

Add the chicken, fish sauce, ginger, lemongrass and turmeric and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, cooked shrimp or sausages, onion, lime juice and cherry tomatoes and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Remove, if you can find them, the lemongrass sticks, the kaffir lime leaves, if you happen to be lucky enough to find them at a store, and the ginger slices (which I usually cant find in amongst the onion. You find them when you bite into them.).

Add your noodles here if using. I might next time.

Serve in a bowl and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and scallions.

One pot meal, quite easy and very flavorful!

The tomatoes add some color. I would have used more if I had them. See the yellow from the turmeric? I have a big jar of it and my son and husband keep asking me to add it to just about everything, its so good for you.
The tomatoes add some color.(both red ones and yellow ones).I would have used more if I had them. See the yellow from the turmeric? I have a big jar of it and my son and husband keep asking me to add it to just about everything, its so good for you.

Maybe if I ate more turmeric in my food, I would remember better to add turmeric to our food…It adds very little flavor, very mild.

Basically this makes an all purpose broth that you can add any kind of protein you like. Enjoy

Love L

Taco Soup, Alabama style

Here we are, still in Alabama, getting more r&r than should even be allowed. I have not got used to the time change and it is quite startling to find it is 1 or 2 in the morning and I am still up reading or playing on the laptop! And sleeping in, like lots of people do, until 9 or 10. Whew! Weird thing for this early-to-bed-early-to-rise gal.

Before I get the Taco Soup, a pseudo chili that is oh so easy and wonderful, (and isn’t that the goal of all good meals, ‘Easy and wonderful’), let me tell you about this past Friday night here in the chilly south.

As I said, I am not used to the time change and was awake until about 2. It had started to rain sometime during dinner and was an on again off again affair. Oh wait, I almost forgot. Before I could get to bed and as we were retiring from several rounds of mexican dominos, my aunt Jo Ann grabbed a flashlight and said “Come on, follow me”, which I did, but asked where to, as we headed up the stairs to the second floor.

“We have to make sure the roof isn’t leaking” she answered, moving toward the attic staircase. I became a bit alarmed. Her attic was a very large, spooky place, as any self-respecting attic would be. While I don’t mind going up there during the day…

“Let me go grab some holy water, I’ll be right back”, I said.

“Oh just come on.” Up we went.

“Wait, I’ll pull a crucifix up on my phone and shine it ahead of us, to ward off the ghosts.” She just laughed and swung the light around the huge room. It had just been re-roofed recently and was clean and dry. She showed me the crooked fireplace that looked like something Tweedledee and Tweedledum might have built. “W’all shoot, looks like we’s off a bit here. Think they’ll notice if’n we just scooch it over a bit?”

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I saw no ghosts, haunts or bats. And no leaks. In the summer the turret is full of dead wasps. In the fall it gets full of dead lady bugs that crunch under your feet as you walk. Eww.

Since everything looked ship-shape, we carefully climbed down the deathly narrow stairs and went off to our bedrooms. I climbed into bed, and as I said, was awake listening to the rain until about 2.

You think I was kidding about these narrow stairs? And do you see a railing? It just adds to the ambiance.
You think I was kidding about these narrow stairs? And do you see a railing? Me neither.  It just adds to the spooky ambiance.

Now about 6:30 a.m. all proverbial hell broke loose. I could hear the thunder and see the lightening, even in my dreams. It was that loud and close. But it wasn’t until the siren started blaring and would not shut up that I finally woke up. I rolled over and could hear my aunt and uncle hollering to each other from across the yard. My uncle is a county sheriff and was called out for the emergency, flooding and trees felling and all. I heard the noise and the siren when it started “THERE IS A STORM WARNING IN EFFECT” it was like the voice of God, calling out through the storm. Like we hadn’t noticed or something. BOOM! CRACK! WAILING SIRENS! Lordy!

I just wanted a little more sleep. I rolled over and tried to persuade myself I was asleep. Then my aunt hollered up “you’re missing all the excitement!” I turned over and she was looking in my door. It suddenly dawned on me that the door had been open for a while. “Did you come up and open my door?” I asked, thinking it might be a southern storm thing, open all the inner doors or whatever.

“No, I thought you did. I thought you might have got scared. Must have been the ghosts.” Gee, thanks for that.

“Oh, it might have blown open with the front door blew open earlier. Knocked over everything in the front hall.” Whaa? The front door blew open? Wouldn’t that have been locked or something? Seems we were having gusts of wind up to 60 mph and one such gust blew open the old door that does not always latch shut. The air pressure might have caused my not-quite-latched door to swing open. (I’ll show you pictures tomorrow). I’ll stick to that story over a ghost any day.

Later it turned into a beautiful day, sunny and warm.

So back to dinner

Aunt-the-innkeeper had invited some dear friends over for dinner, James and Linda Blair. Linda is the one who gave me the recipe for Baptist pound cake last time I was here. I went and put together some homemade ranch-blue dressing, similar to this one,   except I added crumbled Gorgonzola instead of Blue Cheese and skipped the ground up smoked almonds. Jo Ann had made the taco soup as well as an upside down apple pie, which I will also have in another post.

A nice crisp salad.
A nice crisp salad with some garlic cheddar buttermilk biscuits made by yours truly.If you take the basic biscuit recipe, you just add about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the flour mix, then when you are ready to pop them into the hot oven, brush the biscuits with a mix of melted  butter, olive oil and  pressed garlic, brushing both before baking and after taking out of the oven.

Now to make up for this almost long post and making you wade through the story to get the recipe, I will share this one from aunty that is very short and simple.

TACO SOUP

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 can whole corn
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 can ranch beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 large can tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes

Brown the beef and drain the grease. Add all the other ingredients and heat.

Add some shredded cheese and broken tortilla chips to enhance wonderfulness.
Add some shredded cheese and broken tortilla chips to enhance wonderfulness.

There you go. That’s how she made it. “Easy-peasy” aunty would say. This, the salad and garlic cheese biscuits. Life is good, if’n we don’t get blowed away by the storms!

Oh, and look what else we had with it

I watched aunty make this guacamole herself.
I watched aunty make this guacamole herself.

Are you jealous?

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And for dessert...
And for dessert…

Warm kale, potato and sausage soup (Or chowder?)

What to call this? Soup? Chowder? Potato soup? Kale chowder? This could go on all night…

But now its all gone anyway. So it doesn’t matter what we call it really. Maybe we will call it ‘gone-in-a-second soup’.

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Not much left there. This is after I added some turmeric, just for fun. It looks a bit thicker, thickening as it sits.

It actually started with dinner at my friend Ritas house around Christmas. We went there to see the lighting of trees at the circle of Orange. She had made both a large pot of chili and a large pot of this amazing soup to eat when we all got back. She says she was trying to copy a soup she enjoyed at Olive Garden. (I know my hubby loves their soup too!)  I may not know much about their soup, but this was the best! Plus it used kale. Kale is currently very trendy. The up-and-coming brassica.

And a few weeks later I was craving it.

Since she claims she can’t come over and make us the soup here, she sent me her own recipe.

Which I then tweeked, of course.

She used Italian sausage. she had bought at Costco and it was actually ‘Spaghetti Factory Spicy Italian Sausage’. I did not have. But I did happen to have some pineapple and bacon chicken sausage by Aidells. Darned if that sausage doesn’t go with everything! (Also from Costco, imagine that.) I diced it up in eggs. Topped homemade pizza with it. Threw it in sauerkraut. Now here I was slicing it up to saute in a big soup pot. I added some onions and thinly sliced potatoes to saute. Then some garlic and thinly sliced kale, (with the thick chunks picked out.)

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Saute everything together, waiting in vain for kale to wilt.
Saute everything together, waiting in vain for kale to wilt.
Letting it simmer...
Letting it simmer…no wait, some of it is gone already. Okay, this is after the first wave hit.

For the broth, it is half chicken broth and half milk. (with a splash or cream I had leftover from the weekend of baking.)

Add some seasonings, some corn, because it sounded good, salt and pepper. I let it simmer until everything was tender.

I am surprised how the kale held up. It is not like spinach. (Duh, it’s like kale, silly.)

I confess I did not measure the broth, so I am estimating in the recipe. Rita made hers half broth, half milk. Since I also used a splash of cream I just eye-balled what looked good. You can add more milk or broth to your taste.

That’s the beauty of this soup! As I was enjoying each spoonful of creamy, flavorful soup, I says to myself, “self, you could put some diced chicken in here. Or bacon. Maybe diced sweet potatoes too and celery.” It is very versatile. Peas, leeks, ham, ooh, how about a dollop of sour cream? Now we’re talking!

Kale, sausage and potato soup

Ingredients

  • Some Sausage, Italian, chicken, whatever.
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 10-12 red potatoes (or 1 huge russet, peeled)
  • some salt, pepper, bay leaf
  • bunch kale, trimmed with thick parts removed.
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 pint  milk
  • 1 cup frozen corn

Cooking Directions

  1. In your Pampered Chef Rockcrok or large soup pot, saute your choice of sausage. Rita suggested partially freezing the sausages to make it easier to slice thin. If using raw sausage, saute until they start to brown.
  2. Add thinly sliced potatoes and continue to saute.
  3. When sausage is mostly done, add the diced onions, bay leaf and kale. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the corn.(I put a lid on at this point to let things get nice and steamy.) After about 5 minutes, stir it up until things are browning and add the broth and milk. Let this simmer, uncovered, but not boil or the milk might curdle.
  4. The soup will thicken from the potatoes.
  5. The longer it sits the better it tastes.
  6. It so easy! Dice, saute, simmer, eat!
Remnants of fried rice with diced chicken sausage.
Remnants of fried rice with diced chicken sausage.
Rita, the wonder cook!
Rita, the wonder cook!

 

Milk Dumpling Soup

This is a reprisal of an old favorite. I treated myself to this soup for breakfast, if you can believe it! I am celebrating the beginning of Christmas break for my kid and hence, me. That means I can spend the whole darn day in front of this computer, blogging…after I make breakfast for hubby who is heading out of town, move the car whose battery is dying, bring in the Christmas tree before it rains (we just bought it and it is outside soaking up water), and taking the kid Christmas shopping and going to a Pampered Chef meeting tonight. Other than that, I’m free as a bird!

Who says soup can’t be for breakfast? Who says you must have something sweet like cereal or pancakes, or eggs and bacon? Milk dumpling soup is good morning noon and night. I texted my sis that I was making this for breakfast and she says she is hopping a jet. Enjoy!

Here is a soup you are not going to find every day.

In fact, this may be the only place on the entire internet or in any cookbook, or on the planet where you will see this recipe. Its one-of-a-kind.

It has been handed down, I think from my grandmothers mother-in-law? To her daughter-in-law, then to my mom and to me. It is much in demand when I visit family as most of them do not bother making it for themselves. It tends to be a love/hate thing. My dad wouldn’t touch it, but my mom loved it. My sister and I loved it, my brother did not. My husband doesn’t even try it, my kids love it. I think its something you just have to grow up with it. Except my brother, I don’t know whats up with that.

Major comfort food

Continue reading “Milk Dumpling Soup”

Pauls Favorite Baked Potato Soup

Here is a facelift of an old post on making baked potato soup. Because it’s that time of the year. The cold time. When a warm bowl of soup is like a warm hug in a bowl. This soup can warm you twice. Once when you bake the potatoes, unless you use the micro. Then again when you eat it. You will need the following, but is open for adaptations.More or less potatoes, a blob of cream cheese, some frozen corn or maybe some cubed up leftover ham.

Oh, and enjoy a ‘cyber Monday’. Do some online shopping. Then dance a little jig when it gets delivered and forget you had to pay for it. It’s like a gift from the FedEx/UPS/USPS guys and gals, which you then wrap and have the joy of giving away again at Christmas. Win-win-win.

  • 2-3. large baking potatoes
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour (to make a roux)
  • 4 cups milk,
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • about 4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled (or 6 or 10)
  • 3 oz, cheddar cheese, shredded

Bake the potatoes and remove pulp. Save the skins for baked potato skins later, during a football game or something.

Melt butter in a soup size pot (like I did in my new Rockcrok from The Pampered Chef). Add the flour and stir for a minute or two. You are cooking the flour a bit and it will thicken the soup.

Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon as  you go, about 5 mins. until it has thickened a bit. It will thicken more when you add the potatoes.

Stir in all your other ingredients. Gently stir together and add milk if it seems to thick. When steamy warm, dish it up! Serve with salad or just a chunk of warm bread.  Or just another bowl of soup.

Ready to dish up.
Ready to dish up. This picture really does not do it justice. You will have to imagine the bacon peaking out at you and the melted gooey-ness of the cheese.
some of us weren't ready. So pop on the lid and this stone dutch oven will keep it warm for a long time.
some of us weren’t ready to eat. So I popped on the lid and this stone dutch oven and it  will keep the soup warm for a long time.

Cheater Chicken n Dumplings

I can’t believe how long its been since I have posted! Hope you’ve missed me.

Over the cheeping of the baby chicks out the backdoor (I found baby dookies in the living room this morning!) I can also hear the distant roar of the freeway, which is less than a mile from here. It sounds a lot like the distant roar of the sea, if you squint your ears and use a little imagination. I used to live closer to the sea and could hear it out my window at night when I was a teenager. This sounds a very similar, only we should not be hearing it at all. When we hear that roar, it means the wind is coming from the east, an entirely wrong direction for our wind to be coming from. It means its coming from the desert.

The desert my friends!

So we can expect it to be hot, around high 90’s today.

(weep-weep)

Unlike Tasmania, our time has not changed yet. I got up and it was still dark out at 6:15. I could see ‘the morning star’ in the eastern horizon, big and bold.

And beautiful.

Makes it worth coming out to see it. After Nov. 4th and the time change, it will be light by then and I will only see it on Sunday mornings.

Ah, but where is the chicken and dumplings?

Be patient, I am getting there.

We had a “Welcome back and Congratulations” party for our older son. It was a southern themed potluck party with a slide show of his trips to New Zealand, Scotland, Peru and some close-ups of Banana slugs from UCSC. (Way too many of those for my taste). Southern because of his Civil War reenactment days.

My guy is the one on the right. This is from I think, 2010

It was a fun event.

I was pooped!

My favorite dish there was the fried chicken a true southern gentleman whipped up and brought. I am still waiting for that recipe! (hint-hint)

Another was my own chicken n dumplings I adapted from one of my Semi-Homemade cookbooks. There was so much food there, I did get to take some home for the next day. (Okay, so I held some back just in case. Call me a dumpling hoarder.)

Mind you there was plenty of other wonderful food, biscuits n gravy, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, jambalaya and rice, deviled eggs, a couple different kinds of beans, corn bread and corn souffle, grape salad and I don’t know what all. And that’s not even starting on the 8 desserts!

I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand, which by the look of the picture, was carrots.

Here is the recipe from Sandra Lee Semi Homemade, with my adaptations:

chicken and dumplings  (Why cant I underline things in WordPress? Most irritating)

2 whole store bought roasted chickens, shredded (I used a little less than 2 whole)

2 Tbsp. vegy oil

chopped onions

chopped carrots

chopped celery (the recipe calls for “Ready Pac” frozen veggies)

2 boxes low sodium chicken broth

2 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/2 tsp. pepper

some all-purpose flour for dusting

1 container refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough, like Pillsbury Grands

1 can condensed chicken gravy, Campbells (I didn’t have any and used Campbells cream of chicken soup instead this time. Used the gravy last time. Both worked great)

Set aside the shredded chicken, tossing skin and bones in trash

in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add veggies and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add broth, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and chicken. bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 30 minutes.

While stew simmers, prepare dumplings. On a floured surface, roll each biscuit 1/4″ thick. With a pizza cutter, cut biscuits into 1″ wide strips. Set aside.

Skim off any scum that has risen to the surface of soup. Stir in chicken gravy. Stir in dumplings, a few at a time. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve!

Or don’t tell anyone about it a slurp it up yourself. But the smell will draw them in.

One of the tables of people chowing down
Getting directions before battle. I don’t know, they look pretty hot and tired. Maybe this is after battle?
Well, look what showed up? Wouldn’t Phil be jealous.

Minestrone Soup

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, its supposed to be, any day now.

And isn’t that how stories are supposed to start? Probably not recipes though. I will get there eventually. But for now…

It’s actually very still out, about nine o’clock at night and a little overcast. I was taking laundry from the dryer into the house and I heard a “flap-flap-flap-squawk-thud” coming from the hen house. I took the laundry in, fetched a flashlight and went to investigate. Being in town, I was not particularly thinking of predators, but was most definitely curious.

There was Lefty, wandering around outside the coop, in the run. I shined the flashlight on her and she slowly walked around making little noises I took to be “my goodness, how’d I get down here? What am I to do now?” I shined inside the coop, up in the ‘loft’ where the other girls where sleeping. They eyeballed me from the side and tried to look very innocent. They made little noises too, like “What? Me? I don’t know anything about it? I’m just sitting here sleeping, see? ZZZZZ”

Eventually Lefty wandered back inside and up the ramp to bed. I suppose she could have been sleep walking. Or, as I suspect, some other hen saw an opportunity for more wing space and did a little ‘whoops’ with her elbow, knocking sleeping Lefty out of the loft entirely.

Lefty, of course, is on the left

Of course, now for the Minestrone soup. It’s a quick meal to make, healthy because its full of vegetables, warm on a cold night and makes great leftovers. Whats not to love?

You start with some hamburger. Preferably the good kind, not one with the pink slime we keep hearing about mixed in. Well, here is the recipe:

1 lb. hamburger (more or less and you like)

1 diced onion

2 diced carrots

1 diced celery stalk

really, whatever vegetables you have lying around. I added about a 2″ piece of zucchini I chopped up and some cut up green beans from the freezer.

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can of white beans, this time I used cannelloni also called white kidney beans.

3 cloves garlic

some small macaroni, or in our case, some Trader Joes mini cheese ravioli, cooked separately.

beef/chicken broth (I usually use a combo of whatever is open in the fridge and add to it.)

Italian seasoning, about 1 Tbsp.

rind of a Parmesan, plus some to grate on top of the soup when done.

In a large soup pot, cook up the hamburger. (Drain the fat if needed). As it cooks, add the onions, carrots, celery, green beans, etc. Put a lid on it for about 5-7 minutes for vegetables to steam. Add either diced garlic or put it through a press. I salt and pepper it at this point

Now add the broths, (I use a box of each), the seasoning, can of tomatoes, beans, rind, and let this all simmer, making your kitchen warm and steamy as well as smelling wonderful.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta if you have not done so. If you want to make it earlier, be sure to slightly under-cook it, then run it under cold water to stop the cooking, so it won’t be mushy. I cooked the mini ravioli’s for about 13 minutes or less, drained them and ran the cool water on them to wait.  Put the pasta into the soup and give it a good stir.

It is very hot, so dish out the bowl, sprinkle on the cheese, then to set the table, slice some home-made bread and spread with butter, light some candles, put on some music or pop “Hugo” into the DVD player. (I’m telling you this soup is so hot, you need to find things to do.) Or, like my son does, just put an ice cube in it.

Barely time to snap a pic before diving in.

Enjoy!